Your Apple Watch’s SpO2 sensor might be a lot better than you thought

While I already posted earlier this week on the new features of the Apple Lookout man Series 6, I figured I’d share some quick first run Fri information for ya. As well as some initial thoughts on the handful of other new features that the Series 6 has. This includes VO2Max, SpO2, the altimeter, and screen brightness. Plus of class that new optical HR sensor.

Get-go up, as a quick reminder, here’s the main fettle-focused skinny on what’due south new on the Apple Watch Serial 6:

– Added SpO2 Blood Oxygen Sensor/Measurements
– Changed optical sensor package entirely
– Added faster responding barometric altimeter for watch faces
– Increased screen brightness in standby 2.5x
– VO2Max Alerts Coming afterward 2020 via WatchOS7 (all Apple Watches from Serial 3 upward get this)
– Reduced detection floor of VO2Max for lower VO2Max levels
– Added Sleep Tracking via WatchOS7 (all Apple Watches from Serial three upwards get this)
– Added Boosted Sports via WatchOS7 (all Apple Watches from Series 3 upwardly get this)
– Increased processor speed past 20%

In the grand scheme of things this basically all boils downward to an SpO2 sensor and new optical HR sensor package. While the barometric altimeter improvements might be useful for some, Apple has long had a barometric altimeter in the Apple Lookout man. This just makes it faster to respond on the lookout-face.

So I wanted to dive into all these changes – and for a Friday afternoon, a video seemed like the best bet (in hindsight, it wasn’t – as our cyberspace service provider in the area was having issues impacting both home and office, and I’d spend endless hours trying to get it published). Notwithstanding, since it’south there now and I was up to 2:30AM fighting the good internet fight, you lot should press the play push and enjoy a fun run around Amsterdam. Oh, and some technical bits.

Still, for this weekend post I’ll quickly consolidate some thoughts. Start up, there’s the new optical heart rate sensor. This splits out what was a unmarried light-green LED calorie-free (or, perhaps technically a cluster of lights) on the Series 5, into a dual-lite arrangement on the Serial 6 (though, I retrieve at that place’s actually four green LED’due south – hang tight a sec). It likewise adds the red-light pieces that we’ll talk near later.


For the SpO2 piece, that’south triggered one of two ways. Either manually with a 15-2d test that you but start and wait:


Or automatically behind the scenes every one time in a while. That’ll turn on the cherry-red lights for the SpO2 sensor. What’s interesting in this that I didn’t notice immediately in the video, is that when it turns on those red lights, in that location appears to be a secondary set of green lights that come with it (totally four green LED’s).


Seeing the red sensor is incredibly challenging because Apple has put in piles of mistake-abstention detection things. Dissimilar anybody else including Garmin, Apple doesn’t allow these readings to be taken just any old time. Instead, they’ve actually focused heavily on only letting you get readings when it’s in the optimal position:


Why is this? Well, they’re trying to avoid inaccurate readings from people simply doing this whenever they want (as Garmin and others allow). So past sandboxing it a chip, they can increase the perceived accuracy of information technology, by throwing out plenty of potentially inaccurate results due to poor ‘user test process’.  For case, while none of these are classified every bit medical devices, they’ll undoubtedly be compared to one. And if y’all look at how those devices are tested/validated, it’s sitting at a desk-bound with your arm on a table. Which…is basically exactly what Apple is telling you to do above.

And in fact, once you plough the watch more than about 90° on angle, information technology’ll instantly switch off the sensor and fail the test. It’s super sensitive. Which isn’t to say Garmin isn’t sensitive – they might exist behind the scenes, they but don’t betrayal information technology – so you sit there trying annoyingly and information technology only looks at you like a confused canis familiaris. Information technology’s a prime case of Apple non being get-go with the technology, but ultimately implementing it in a more widely attainable way.


In any case, this was supposed to be a quick post. On the run, I had a pile of devices with me to compare, especially for heart rate. Looking at that beginning, you tin encounter the Apple Lookout did exceedingly well. Only i minor blip for a couple of seconds. The HRM-PRO had stale up while I was filming some intro stuff, and I forgot to re-lick it until about 2-three mins in, and then y’all can see it instantly locked off. Afterward that, my sweat kicked in and I was good. Standard chest strap things on a cooler dry day.


All in, for HR accuracy while running a single run – it’s WAY better than the Series v was at launch, and now more in line with the very impressive accuracy of the Series 4.

For GPS data, I created one heck of a messy route. I included the running track, two sets of extremely long tunnels/bridges, running a loop adjacent to a stadium, running on a small island, going through the forest, and just meandering. I had with me a FR745, Fitbit Sense, and of course the Apple Sentry Series 6. Due to various embargos, I can’t quite share the Fitbit data until adjacent week. So here’southward the GPS information versus the FR745:


And a bit closer:


I went into this in detail in the video, or you can zoom in on the set here. But the main takeaways are:

– Holy crap, Apple finally got rid of the Mario Kart/Swooshing/Sashaying corner effect
– The Apple tree Sentinel and FR745 were very shut
– The FR745 actually nailed the track, despite not being in track fashion (hmm…interesting thoughts on that after)
– The Apple tree Picket struggled a niggling bit around the stadium, only nosotros’re talking mostly just a few meters
– There were a few sections information technology wobbled slightly on some straightaways
– Both were great in the tunnels
– Both were great in the forest

So, the biggest takeaway is that Apple has clearly traded some of the over-smoothing they’ve done since the very first of Apple Watch, with a scrap more than ‘trueness’ for where the watch actually goes (or, where it thinks it goes). This ways that yous get a chip more wobble in some cases compared to the past, but information technology also means it doesn’t cut or sweep around corners like it used to. As a reminder from the Series 5, this is that sweeping I was talking about there (these are from the Series 5 review). You can see how it heavily smooths my twists and turns on the path.

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2019-11-25 21.01.21

Now, Apple has connected to make progress on this since last year. Every one time in a while I’ll practice tests with it, and I’ve seen them slowly observe that balance improve and better. But I think at this bespeak they’re acting much closer to a normal GPS spotter than the heavily smoothed Apple Watch.

I’ll piece of work towards an in-depth review over the next few weeks. But until then, I’m kinda impressed with the accuracy bits, equally well as the gates they’ve put in place to try and raise the floor on SpO2 data. I might be interested in picking a legit medical certified SPO2 device to compare against. Not just a pinkie one for $10, but something that would be a better reference device. Since so many wearables are out there these days using that tech, it’d exist interesting to practise occasional spot checks.

Until then – feel free to drop any questions below. I’m sure y’all’ll besides see Apple Lookout man Serial six data in various reviews coming up over the next week or two.

With that – thanks for reading and accept a proficient weekend!


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